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Automated Sail-Powered Container Ship

Robot cargo ship powered by wind. Saves money on fuel and crew.
  [vote for,

Several companies have built automated sailboats for scientific research vessels or private yachts. Likewise several companies have proposed building robotic container ships (see links). But to my knowledge no one has combined the two.

My idea is to build a fleet of relatively small sail-powered ships that can carry between one and twenty shipping containers each. They would be propelled by rigid sails, with the computers powered by solar panels. GPS and radar would guide the on-board navigational computers, with remote control via satellite for trickier situations. At the beginning and end of their journeys they would be guided by a harbor pilot, either on board or via remote control.

Since sail power is slower and less reliable than diesel engines, these ships would (at least at first) be used primarily for shipping non-perishable goods where speed of delivery is not a factor. Perhaps they could be used for cargoes that improve with age, such as whisk(e)y, wine, or cheese. Since smaller ships are more affected by rough seas, they might not be able to sail certain routes during certain times of the year, and insurance companies might only underwrite low-value cargoes.

With no fuel or crew, the economic savings would be immense. And they would be completely carbon-neutral and pollution-free, unless a combustion engine is needed for going into port.

discontinuuity, Nov 03 2019

Sail-powered research drones https://www.bloombe...o-conquer-the-ocean
Saildrones used to research shark migrations [discontinuuity, Nov 03 2019]

Semi-automated sailing yachts https://www.wired.c...ed-morris-m-series/
[discontinuuity, Nov 03 2019]

Proposals for automated container ships https://www.univers...ship-is-on-the-way/
[discontinuuity, Nov 03 2019]

Wind powered shipping https://daily.jstor...-shipping-industry/
[Chairborne Hero, Nov 07 2019]

Whiskey aged at sea https://www.caskers...ht-bourbon-whiskey/
Largely a gimmick, but it could be an advantage of longer shipping times [discontinuuity, Nov 10 2019]


       How do you stop criminals getting aboard and either stealing from the containers or putting things inside ?   

       The ocean is a fearsomely harsh and unforgiving environment, and your ship doesn't have power to run for a safe harbour when the weather turns nasty.
8th of 7, Nov 03 2019

       I like this idea. It's not impossible to implement, although there are certainly challenges.   

       Collision regulations could be a problem. If you don't maintain a proper look-out "by sight and hearing", your vessel is probably not compliant.
Frankx, Nov 04 2019

       //How do you stop criminals getting aboard and either stealing from the containers or putting things inside ? //   

       Good question. Maybe automated TASER guns? Or very slippery hulls? Or some mechanism to temporarily submerge the ship?   

       //The ocean is a fearsomely harsh and unforgiving environment, and your ship doesn't have power to run for a safe harbour when the weather turns nasty.//   

       True. But that's for the insurance companies to figure out. At least no human life would be lost if the ship goes down.   

       //Collision regulations could be a problem.//   

       I don't know much about maritime law, but the Saildrone team seem to have come up with a solution for their small boats. Perhaps a human remote operator would have to intervene in tricky situations or when passing by other ships.
discontinuuity, Nov 06 2019

       An "Automated Salt-Powered Container Ship" would be interesting ...
8th of 7, Nov 10 2019

       Your thinking of a slow alternative to an intercontinental ballistic missile aren't you [8th].
Skewed, Nov 10 2019

       Oh, that's been thought of ... putting a high-yield device in an innocent cargo ship (possibly without the knowledge of the crew) and freighting it into an enemy harbour ...   

       Many national capitals are port cities, or close to the sea. Just pop your device in a regular container, stick the right stamps on it, and take it down to the docks ... by the time the target gets round to checking the contents against the manifest (" Tractor Parts") it's much too late ...
8th of 7, Nov 10 2019

       Yes, but you could do exactly the same with a regular, crewed container ship.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 10 2019

       Yes, but there's no crew on the container. Then again, unmanned containers do seem to predominate over manned ones.There are, of course, exceptions, but in those cases the "crew" aren't there with the lessor's knowledge and consent.
8th of 7, Nov 10 2019


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